Being laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Dave Benning.
He spent 155 consecutive days painting in his studio, honing his skills.
“I think I got pretty good, pretty confident in my job. So having the practice was definitely key,” the 52-year-old artist told This is BC.
For more than a decade, Benning created pop culture portraits and occasionally received a commission from a client. But it was his daughter who presented him with a new idea that saw his art sales take off. She asked her father to paint her a pair of shoes.
“I didn’t really think about it, I was sure, ‘yeah yeah no problem,'” Benning said. “When I first started doing research, I was like ‘oh okay, that’s a lot of work’.”
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After buying tiny brushes, he is now doing amazing work. But it took a lot of practice to switch to a three-dimensional canvas.
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“You kind of have to be creative. If you have shoes with laces you have to sort of work around, how are you going to fit your design, where are the seams,” Benning said, describing the challenges. “There are so many other things to think about.”
His shoes start at $525 a pair.
He’s had a few celebrity buys so far – bandmate Anthrax and Battlestar Galactica actor Aaron Douglas, so word is spreading.
“The shoes went to Australia, a few pairs went to the UK, all over the US which was good,” Benning added.
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As difficult as it may be for some customers to wear them outside, Benning said it was functional art.
But there are limits.
“Don’t do a Tough Mudder with them or wear them out in the snow,” Benning warned.
“But I’m giving you a cotton bag so you can carry them to work or whatever.”
This business is now shaping up to be Benning’s new full-time job thanks to a great idea from his daughter who wouldn’t mind some of the perks, but not the commission or the credit.
“No, no, but she gets shoes when she wants them,” Benning said with a smile.
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